Science Uncovers The Origin Of The First Light In The Universe

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      When we look out at the Universe today, highlighted against the vast, empty blackness of the sky are points of light: stars, galaxies, nebulae and more. Yet there was a time in the distant past before any of those things had formed, just after the Big Bang, where the Universe was still filled with light. If we look in the microwave part of the spectrum, we can find the remnants of this light today in the form of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). But even the CMB is relatively late: we’re seeing its light from 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Light, as far as we know it, existed even before that. After centuries of investigating the origins of the Universe, science has finally uncovered what physically happened to “let there be light” in space.

      Let’s take a look at the CMB, first, and where it comes from going way, way back. In 1965, the duo of Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were working at Bell Labs in Holmdel, New Jersey, trying to calibrate a new antenna for radar communications with overhead satellites. But no matter where they looked in the sky, they kept seeing this noise. It wasn’t correlated with the Sun, any of the stars or planets, or even the plane of the Milky Way. It existed day and night, and it seemed to be the same magnitude in all directions.

      After much confusion over what it might be, it was pointed out to them that a team of researchers just 30 miles away in Princeton predicted the existence of such radiation, not as a consequence of anything coming from our planet, solar system or galaxy itself, but originating from a hot, dense state in the early Universe: from the Big Bang.

      So where did this light — the first light in the Universe — first come from? It didn’t come from stars, because it predates the stars. It wasn’t emitted by atoms, because it predates the formation of neutral atoms in the Universe. If we continue to extrapolate backwards to higher and higher energies, we find some strange things out: thanks to Einstein’s E = mc2, these quanta of light could interact with one another, spontaneously producing particle-antiparticle pairs of matter and antimatter!

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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